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Olympics Galore!

by Ruchi Shroff on Sep 13, 2012

We look at what satellite broadcasters, networks and app makers are doing to make it easier to access the London Games 2012.

The London Olympics have their usual share of horror stories – as is the case with the Games, they have gone over budget, are the most expensive games, and have faced problems with athletes.

But this year the Games are adding on another dimension, quite literally with 3D coverage. The event is expected to generate over 5,000 hours of satellite coverage for 4.8 billion viewers around the globe on TVs, computers and mobile devices.

Satellite broadcasters
At IBC in September 2011, many broadcasters agreed to use Carrier IDs in advance of the Games in order to assure quality DVB satellite transmissions and avoid interference.

Carrier ID is a stamp on uplink signals that enables satellite operators to more efficiently identify transmissions to their satellites and thereby accelerate coordination with earth station operators in the event of signal interference.

Quality assurance of DVB satellite transmissions has engaged the satellite community at large, including satellite operators, encoder and modulator manufacturers, broadcasters and uplink providers.

The effort is also supported by three international associations: the World Broadcasting Unions-International Satellite Operations Group (WBU-ISOG), the GVF (Global VSAT Forum) and sIRG (satellite Interference Reduction Group).

The intiative was a way to reduce the interference problem with satellites. The problem has increased in proportion to the number of satellites in orbit (now around 2500). It is being driven by growth in Direct To Home broadcasting, cellular backhaul and various point-to-multipoint data applications.

Although the reliability of satellite transmissions has improved with reduced error rates overall, the number of interference incidents reported on a monthly basis is still increasing, exceeding 100 per month for large operators. Most of these are caused by badly installed ground terminals, uplink errors and poor equipment maintenance.

Incidents resulting from these and other causes vary in severity from slight signal degradation to total service outage, and the overall impact on operators is significant since it cuts effective transmission capacity, reduces uptime, generates costs to combat and potentially lose customers.

Interference can be a short-term problem when caused by faulty equipment. Or, it can be long-term when occurring between nearby satellites operating in the same frequency bands. Either ways, it could be deadly for a network during a highly televised event like the Olympics.

Carrier ID allows sources to be identified by embedding the necessary information within the payload data. This quickly identifies the source provided the carrier ID is readily accessible. The carrier ID must also be carried in a standardized way.

Satellite operators, led by Eutelsat, Intelsat and SES whose combined orbital assets represent almost 60% of global commercial satellite capacity, have completed the process of adapting their earth station information tables to include Carrier ID information so they can read, extract and interpret data.

Modulator and encoder manufacturers, accounting for the vast majority of satellite transmission equipment used by broadcasters and service providers, have developed new models and system upgrades for Carrier ID use.

They include Adtec Digital, Comtech EF Data, Ericsson, Fujitsu, IDC, Newtec and Vislink. Leading broadcasters, agencies and service providers have also updated their systems to be Carrier ID ready.

“Never before have broadcasters, satellite operators, uplinkers, and manufacturers collaborated to implement an initiative with the sole objective of improving the quality of satellite television services for millions of viewers,” said Martin Coleman, executive director of the satellite Interference Reduction Group; David Hartshorn, secretary general of the Global VSAT Forum; and Dick Tauber, chairman of WBU-ISOG and VP Transmission Systems and New Technology at the CNN News Group.

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